Masonic Traveler 1 Apr 10

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THE MASONIC TRAVELER “Traveling upon the Level of Time” San Antonio, Texas April 1, 2010 Prince Hall Masons attend historical commemoration of 19th Century Black Legislators of Texas Story and photos by: Bro. Burrell Parmer San Antonio Lodge No. 1 MWPHGL of Texas AUSTIN — Men in black suits donning Masonic regalia, white gloves and aprons along with state senators, house representatives, families and friends gathered together on a beautiful sunny morning at the Tex
  THE MASONIC TRAVELER  “Traveling upon the Level of Time” San Antonio, TexasApril 1, 2010 Prince Hall Masons attend historical commemora-tion of 19th Century Black Legislators of Texas Story and photos by:Bro. Burrell Parmer San Antonio Lodge No. 1MWPHGL of Texas   AUSTIN    —    Men in black suitsdonning Masonic regalia, whitegloves and aprons along withstate senators, house representa-tives, families and friends gath-ered together on a beautiful sunnymorning at the Texas State Ceme-tery, March 30. Their purposewas not to mourn the departure of a loved one or provide condo-lences, it was to honor and com-memorate 52 African Americanmen who served in the Texas Leg-islature and as Constitution Con-vention Delegates during the 19thCentury, 1868 - 1900.The ceremony began with theBexar County Buffalo Soldiers of San Antonio, marching on andposting the Colors which con-sisted of the U.S. and Texas StateFlags.The unveiling was an effort thatwas started 12 years ago by Larry A. Thomas, the monument’s pro-  ject director, whose vision was tohave a monument to remember the forgotten, to reconnect a dis-connect, and to relight an histori-cal path that once blazed beforethe men that were honored.Thomas was not alone in hisvision; it took others like HarryBradley of the Texas State Ceme-tery, Representatives DawnnaDukes, Dennis Bonnen, Senator Rodney Ellis and project commit- tee members to see Thomas’ vi- sion come to fruition.Scott Sayers, Chairman of theTexas State Cemetery Committeespoke regarding the cemetery. “Every aspect of Texas culture and history is represented at thecemetery; this is the final restingplace of heroes of the Texas revo-lution, for signing of the TexasDeclaration of Independence, for governors, legislators, judges,Texas Rangers, educators, writers and even athletes.”“This cemetery today is so proud to honor the 19th CenturyBlack Legislators who will now becelebrated right alongsideStephen F. Austin, Governor James P. Henderson, Congress-woman Barbara Jordan and oth- ers,” said Sayers.  Sayers went on to say that 19thCentury Texas Black Legislatorswere the early civil rights pioneersoften times overlooked in our his-tory books but they were just as courageous as today’s civil rights leaders.Dr. Alwyn Barr, Professor Emeritus of History at Texas TechUniversity informed those presentthat today was the 140th Anniver-sary of the official end of Recon-struction. He provided a brief his-tory lesson.  Pictured from Lt. to Rt.: Walter M. Burton, George Thompson Ruby, AllenW. Wilder, John Mitchell and Nathan H. Haller. These and 47 other Black  Legislators and Constitutional Convention Delegates of Texas were honored at the Texas State Cemetery March 30 on the 140th Anniversary of the end of  Reconstruction. Photo courtesy of the Texas State Library and Archives. Page 1 of 6    “The significance of March 30, 1870 becomes clear when wecompare the status and roles of African Americans in Texas onthat date with their status androles five years earlier at the endof the Civil War. In 1865, Unionvictory over the Confederacy al-lowed Black Texans to throw off the bonds of slavery yet theyfound themselves with few legalrights to control their economic-political perception status in 1865.”   Barr continued, “In the months following, African Americans inTexas and across the South ap-pealed to the U.S. Congress for greater equality and sometimesthat was a dangerous thing to doin those days, Congress re-sponded in 1867 with the Recon-struction Act that required newstate constitutions in Texas andother southern states and grantedcivil rights and voting rights to Afri-can Americans for the first timethat opened the way for nine blackleaders in Texas to win electionsas delegates to a new constitu-tional convention that met in 1868and in 1869. Those black dele-gates worked to authorize throughthe new Texas Constitution a statepublic school system that wouldinclude black as well as white stu- dents for the first time.”  The Honorable Joe Straus,Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives attended the his-toric event and addressed those inthe audience. “It is fitting that we are gathered on a crucial day on the history of the 15th Amendment which wasratified on Feb. 3, 1870. It was notuntil March 30th that the secretaryof state issued a proclamation cer-tifying ratification by the states.So today, 140 year later, we re-member these 52 men for their service to our state as they taketheir rightful place in history to be honored for generations to come.”   “As I reflect upon their service two words come to mind, courageand sacrifice, each one of thesemen overcame the shameful leg-acy of slavery to become famers,businessmen, teachers, ministers,and they served our state coura-geously under the most difficultcircumstances, they sacrificedtime with their family, their busi-nesses, their safety and theystood for their beliefs and leavinga legacy of leadership that en-riches our lives today. The mem-bers of the Texas Legislators joinme in honoring the service of these men. Standing here in thissolemn and historic place, I knowthat this monument is long over-due, now it proudly stands as areminder of the past and a marker  for future generations.”  The Honorable Dawnna Dukesof the Texas House of Represen-tatives provided House sponsor-ship and brought to the forefrontthe awareness that these men de-served. When the project director asked for support, Dukes led theeffort to help secure funding tomake the commemoration possi-ble. “When Larry came to me a few years ago concerning a monu-ment for the cemetery it reallyseemed like a no brainer, but onehad to question why did it take somuch effort to have these brave men recognized,” said Dukes. According to Dukes, one of themen honored today was EdwardPatton, who in 1890 was the lastAfrican American to be elected tothe Texas State Legislature, whostood up in 1891 and arguedagainst the Poll Tax, in 1893 theTax was approved and in 1892 thecounty sheriff fired a shot at Pat-ton in order to deter him from re-election. Patton had to leave thestate of Texas in fear of his life. “Patton left behind a wife and The Honorable Joe Straus, Speaker of the Texas House of Representativesattended the historic event and addressed those in the audience. Page 2 of 6  two children and one of his chil-dren bared him a granddaughter and some 100 years later in 1965when civil rights were taken up inAmerica, it was finally made possi-ble that African Americans wouldbe able to vote again without aPoll Tax and that woman knewthat by having the ability to organ-ize African Americans in 5th WardHouston she would have thechance of becoming the first Afri-can American to serve in the Sen-ate, and even though the pictureof Patton may be in the bottom of the Capitol, the picture of hisgranddaughter, Barbara Jordan isin the Texas Senate. This is a very special day.”  Another champion in the effortsto recognize these men is theHonorable Rodney Ellis of theState Senate, who over the yearsvoiced his support and stayed inclose contact with the project di-rector on the progress on findingsupport for the monument. “It’s always good to see you all in a graveyard and I always look forward to visiting, I don’t want tostay,” said Ellis jokingly.“I think it is important to note that when this graveyard was es-tablished obviously people of color could not be buried in this greatcemetery as others, now we all have a spot, I picked mine, I’ll be right over on Confederate Hill be-cause we all have learned thatregardless on which side of thewar you were on, the right sidewon. I look forward to restingthere but before I rest I hope thatthere are a lot of young peoplethat will fill my shoes and theshoes of these fine Black Legisla- tors.” Ellis thanked the project director for standing fast and pushing himand others to get this done. Healso exclaimed his satisfaction tosee that many descendants wereable to make it to Austin for thecommemoration.Announcement of the unveilingwas conducted by the HonorableWilbert M. Curtis, Grand Master of the Most Worshipful Prince HallGrand Lodge of Texas and Juris-diction, who gave orders to theGrand Marshal, to demand order for the unveiling of the monument.Grand Master Curtis then gaveorders to the Right WorshipfulGrand Senior Warden. “Having accepted the invitation to assist in unveiling of the monu-ment commemorating the 19thCentury Texas Black Legislators,we have assembled the Craft for that purpose and it is my wish and Page 3 of 6 The Honorable Dawnna Dukes of the Texas House of Representatives pro-vided House sponsorship and brought to the forefront the awareness that these men deserved.Senator Rodney Ellis   The Grand Marshal delivers Grand  Master Wilbert M. Curtis’ order at  the historic event.  my will that the Brothers give their attention and assistance in thework to be done. Please commu-nicate this order to the Right Wor-shipful Grand Junior Warden andhe to the Brethren present thathaving due and timely noticethereof they may govern them- selves accordingly.” His orders were relayed andobeyed.Descendants of the 52 menhonored took their places in frontof the monument with anticipationof its unveiling. A representativeof each family assisted in the au-gust event, one such person wasBrother Danny M. Pryor of Sunny-side, TX, who is a descendent of Sen. Walter Moses Burton.Burton, who was born into slav-ery circa 1829 in North Carolina,served in the 14th -17th StateLegislatures. “It is a great feeling having a family member recognized in such a fashion,” said Bro. Pryor, 48, who is a member of Lone Star  Lodge No. 85. “This was only a small piece of what Blacks have accomplished.”  Larry A. Thomas, project direc-tor of the 19th Century TexasBlack Legislators Monument Pro- ject received a standing ovationafter the unveiling. “This was 12 years in the mak- ing. Something that God has led me to do,” said Thomas.  Thomas remarked about theimportance of research. “Take the time to do the home- work; this applies to adults as wellas students. I encourage all tovisit the Forever Free Exhibit inthe State Capitol. There are sixfamilies of the 52 men we honor here today; there is still much re- search to be done.”  Thomas said that the projectwas not without criticism. “The monument looks good, it turned out great. There was a lotof support from people for this pro- ject and there were some who didnot. Some asked why not do it inFebruary during Black HistoryMonth, but it had to be today for today has significance. It is the140th Anniversary of the end of Reconstruction.The last speaker of the day wasthe Honorable Frank D. Jackson,Mayor of the City of Prairie View,who also serves as the WorshipfulGrand Historian for the Most Wor-shipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas.  Project Director Larry A. Thomas delivers mementos to Bro. Danny M. Pryor and other descendents after the unveiling of the 19th Century Black Legisla-tors and Constitutional Delegates monument at the Texas State Cemetery .   Page 4 of 6
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